Thu, Nov 4, 2:56 AM
DURHAM — A man said he’s got a constitutional right to sell hot dogs on street corners has been ordered to shut down his mobile cart until he complies with what state law says about folks standing by the street putting wieners in buns.
“We’ve got 10 percent unemployment in this state,” Steven Pruner protested Tuesday. “The state has used its resources to add me to the list.”
Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan signed the injunction Monday. It means Pruner, 58, has to find another way to earn money toward supporting his 29-year-old disabled child, and he also looks after his 48-year-old brother who gets dialysis treatments for kidney problems.
“What am I gonna do about income? I have none,” Pruner explained. “I’m gonna have to go on food stamps and welfare.”
According to court records, Pruner had been operating his hot dog cart for nine months. For several months he’d set up shop on the corner of Erwin Road and Fulton Street. Pruner failed to produce for Durham County Health Department inspector Marc Meyer either proof of an operator’s permit or evidence his cart had been inspected, so Meyer asked Pruner to stop selling hot dogs. Pruner refused, said it’s his constitutional right to work, to work with wieners.
Meyer approached Pruner at least a couple more times, once in May and then in June, according to court records. In July, health department folks sued Pruner to get him declared a health hazard.
Pruner would argue his customers were allowed to be right up on him watching exactly what’s going on with the hot dogs he fixed. People can’t get that close to food handlers in restaurants, he said.
The hot dog man said he offered Meyer opportunities to inspect his cart. But the inspector refused on grounds Pruner didn’t have a commissary agreement, according to both Pruner and court records.
The deal with the commissary agreement is Pruner needed to be hooked in with, for example, a restaurant, where his food would get prepped in a place that’s inspected. Or Pruner could’ve started his own restaurant.
“You have to be affiliated with a licensed kitchen,” Pruner said. “It’s pretty hard to beat the system.”
On Oct. 27, Pruner was warned he’d be arrested if he kept selling hot dogs on the corner without a permit. But Pruner kept fixing hot dogs.
Sure enough, later that day around 2:15 p.m., Meyer and another individual from the health department showed up with three police officers, and Pruner was handcuffed and taken into custody for selling hot dogs without a permit.
Pruner said he may appeal the injunction.
“The law was definitely on my side,” Pruner said.
In the meantime, Pruner voted Tuesday, he said.
“I did vote. I voted for constitutional judges that believe in original intent,” Pruner said.
Prior to Election Day, Pruner said a Superior Court judicial candidate told him the Constitution is a living document.
The hot dog man said he didn’t vote for that guy.